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What is a song plugger?
A song plugger is hired (either by publishers, individual writers, or both) to pitch songs they control the copyright on to artists, record label A&R persons, and producers with the intention that the songs will find a place on an album or single release. A song plugger is the ‘sales person’ and the position requires a combination of passion and detachment. A good song plugger is service oriented, in that he or she continually does his or her best to find and pitch songs that fit criteria the producers, artists, and labels establish for the project. In no way should a plugger pitch any song it if it doesn’t hold up to the criteria established or the song is wrong for the project. The reputation of the plugger is built on the songs she brings to every project. If she knows the artist doesn’t do cheating songs but the writer insists his cheating song is perfect, she shouldn’t pitch it because it’s wasting a pitch. Good writers don’t waste lines or words songs; good pluggers don’t waste pitch opportunities. It’s the job of the song plugger to recognize good songs, stand behind them, and pitch when and where appropriate. The song plugger’s calling card is the last best (or worst) song she pitched.
Why employ an independent song plugger?
Even though the goal and desired outcomes are cuts, there’s a lot more to it. You pay a song plugger for their time, knowledge, experience, energy, enthusiasm, and the business connections they’ve worked for years to acquire. You pay for the ability of your plugger to think on her feet in pitch meetings, because changing strategy mid-meeting often happens. A songplugger must personally absorb the rejection. Pitching songs is an intense sales experience; unlike other sales situations, there’s no ‘closing the deal’ ~ it’s too subjective and (often) political. The ratio of ‘pass’ vs ‘get me a copy / put that song on hold’ is about 100 – 1 (I’m being generous, probably not that high). If you can continue to write songs and simultaneously deal with this level of rejection without taking it personally or allowing it to dampen and wear down your creative spirit, then you may not need a plugger, but having someone pitching your material who is detached and immune to rejection is invaluable. Pluggers are expected to let rejection bounce off so there’s no need for reasons or excuses ‘why not’ when the song gets a ‘pass’ (no in songplugger language).
How does it work?
Songpluggers are frequently asked if they will take a percentage of the publishing revenues in lieu of a retainer. Although someone breaking into the business might do so, experienced pluggers don’t. Songplugging is a business; there’s an investment in equipment and ever changing technology; phone, internet, and other office expenses, plus the cost of industry publications, lunches, showcases, and activities required to keep up with the business. If you plan on being in the songwriting business, then you have to treat it as a business and realize there are several investments you’ll be making such as quality demos, networking opportunities, and educational opportunities. A songplugger is part of the investment you make in yourself. Your songs are the products, demos are the sales tools, and the plugger is the sales department, especially if you value your creative time. Many writers are certainly qualified to represent their own material, but the time commitment of pitching songs is enormous, therefore every writer must determine the appropriate balance of their energies. A songplugger, at some time, will be a good investment in your career. The bottom line ~ independent songpluggers work on a contractual basis, charge a monthly retainer with a possible (small) bonus on cuts, depending on the revenue created. They are flexible in the arrangements they make and it’s different for every plugger. Songpluggers work hard for extremely modest incomes, they’re passionate about music and do it for love, not glory ~ have you ever heard the ‘star’ thank the songplugger on any award show? Of course not! Like I said, love not glory!
What happens in a pitch meeting?
Relationships are important. A good plugger should be mindful of the client’s song needs, in tune with the service aspect of the job, and familiar with the artist. The main reason for a sit down meeting is to establish or re-establish the relationship with the client, and follow up with the best service possible. It’s a myth that these are the best kinds of meetings because ‘you can get their reaction to your songs'. In many sit down meetings, much of the time may be spent building the personal relationship. These days there are fewer labels and more songwriters, so ‘listeners’ have more acts to listen for and their time is at a premium. A good plugger wants to know, in the end, that her songs are listened to, whether this is achieved from a sit down, drop off, or an .mp3 (only if that’s their request). The rule is ‘whatever works best for the client’ ~ remember this is a service-oriented business. Many producers and label people prefer a box (or file) of songs they can peruse on their own time when they’re ‘in the mood to listen’ rather than a long day of people-filled, energy draining sit down meetings. A plugger should care most about making it easy for the song to be heard because a great song will get noticed. But let’s say we’re in a sit down meeting ~ the plugger and client greet one another, chit chat a minute, then the conversation turns to ‘what are your needs now’ (this could’ve changed since you made the appointment). The plugger asks a few questions, listens and makes notes, then plays a few songs. The producer / client listens until such point in the song he knows if he wants it or not. The response can be as subtle as a nod; quite often you have to ask if it’s a pass or if they want a copy (you can’t always tell). They don’t always listen to the whole song; they usually cut if off after the 1st or 2nd chorus. Sometimes they do listen to the whole song and seem to enjoy it, but then they pass. They like it but it’s not what they need. Unlike other sales situations where the client is given several choices, it’s very subjective and there’s no way to overcome objections after the fact. They may not even be able to articulate why they reject the song, that takes up time, plus it’s not their job to explain why or why not. Sometimes a plugger takes the same song back a time or two, but you have to be careful about that….. Oh, yeah, being a songplugger is a dream job, if you like suspense and challenge, that is!